Great Reading Ideas: The Little Free Library

“The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.” ~Abraham Lincoln


When your grade-school kid begins to call out, “Mooooo-ooom! I need something else to read; I’ve read all of our books,” it’s probably time to hit a bookstore or library for the latest Junie B. Jones book.  For most of us, that’s not much of a dilemma, since it’s fairly easy to pile into a car and head out for a day of book exploration or to order an awesome new book release online. (I haven’t read “We Dine With Cannibals” yet, but with such an impressive title, it’s been added to my to-read new release list.)

But, not all of us have such easy access to the book world… in fact, there are plenty of kids who grow up in homes with very few books at all. But, there’s a happy new movement spreading to help put a dent in those sorry access-to-books numbers…

If you’ve noticed the occasion little birdhouse looking feature popping up in a nearby neighborhood, then you’re in vicinity of folks who likely treasure literacy as much as you.

What started as a tribute to his mom in Wisconsin by Tod Bol, has spread across the U.S., and this new community movement is about sharing books, for free, with everyone. (As far as I am concerned, Bol deserves a medal of honor for coming up with such a remarkably simple, but perfect, idea.)

So, how does a little free library work? It’s actually pretty simple. If you are a home-owner  you install a postal box-like feature into your yard, complete with a box to house books, add some books, and then with a “free library” sign, and a little word of mouth, your new library is off and running. You can learn all about it here.

The book housing itself can be a retro-fitted doll house or bird house, the main point is that it’s easily accessible, and visually appealing with some sort of signage so that potential patrons can get to it easily and learn what it’s purpose is. Should you decide to build your own, it should be able to withstand outdoor weather.  There are designs to build your own online, or you can order one.  Some families throw a party to share the new library, raise awareness and help bring in new books for the cause. Others host book clubs and reading groups centered around the library. If you’ve got the means, you could really go all out and order countless new books, but it doesn’t need to be anything fancy.

There have been precious few issues–less than five– with theft or vandalism, and one or two cities have rules against such installations, but all-in-all the idea has been warmly accepted.The non-profit Little Free Library organizers say that, “If this were just about providing free books on a shelf, the whole idea might disappear after a few months.  There is something about the Little Library itself that people seem to know carries a lot more meaning.”

They also suggest stocking the library with really good reads, having the books be reader-notation friendly, and adding your own personal touches. I’m getting ready to start my own little library, and I think my personal touch will be some sort of recommendations or book rating system…. like five blue stars for an excellent read, for instance. 

These aren’t just any old books!  And by the way…do you know a great place to find practically any book you might want to read?  Your public library!  Through inter-library loans, children’s programs, special events and Friends of Libraries, public libraries are treasures…and so are local, independent bookstores.  Support them!  Libraries big and small; we support them all,” the organization said. We couldn’t agree more.